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iTunes question, what bitrate should I download at?

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iTunes question, what bitrate should I download at?

Old 08-13-05, 03:29 AM
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iTunes question, what bitrate should I download at?

I just noticed that the default download rate is 128 kbps (apple compresion, .acc). This sounds fine on my computer and iPod, but I have never burned a CD of songs downloaded from them - I've only bought two songs though I've downloaded a dozen or so of their weekly free songs.

They list 128 kbps as "high quality". Is this fine for when I do want to burn CDs, or should I start downloading at 160 kbps .acc, or higher? (it goes up to 320 kbps)
Old 08-13-05, 07:40 AM
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It all depends on what sounds good to the listener. My absolute minimum is 192 Kbps, with most being 320. At 128 I can hear the distortion caused by the compression, and it bugs the hell out of me. So, just play around to find what sounds best to your ear.
Old 08-13-05, 10:19 AM
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128kbps ripped as an AAC file does sound better than an MP3 ripped at the same quality, but I don't consider either high quality. I rip all my files with EAC and Lame using the alt standard 192 kbps VBR.

If using iTunes to rip your own CDs I would recommend 192kbps AAC. However, if you are downloading songs you may want to convert to audio CD later I would get the highest quality possible. Lossless would be the best bet if possible.

I'm pretty sure though that all the songs offered at the iTunes store are limited to 128kpbs. Those setting in iTunes are only for songs you rip yourself from CDs.

Last edited by darkside; 08-13-05 at 02:41 PM.
Old 08-13-05, 01:53 PM
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Yup 128 AAC sounds way better than a mp3 at the same bit rate.

However, I second darkside, I rip mine at 192kbps AAC.
Old 08-15-05, 11:43 AM
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You can't choose a different bitrate for downloaded songs. All files on the iTunes Music Store are 128kbps AAC files. The drop-down box in the Options screen is only for ripping new songs from a CD.
Old 08-15-05, 11:46 AM
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Songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store don't come at multiple bitrates. They're 128 kbps and that is that. You don't get a choice.

As for ripping your own from CD, you can choose what you like. I personally use 160kbps AAC for my ripping, and bump it up to 192kbps AAC for classical music (instrumental and such).
Old 08-15-05, 12:37 PM
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Agree with others. I rip at 192kbps minimum. To save time searching /or risk a stolen collection in the car I usually burn whatever I feel like listening to from those files. I have started to notice a difference in sound quality though the past few months since I started carrying a handful of the official discs in my car.
Old 08-15-05, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael Corvin
Agree with others. I rip at 192kbps minimum. To save time searching /or risk a stolen collection in the car I usually burn whatever I feel like listening to from those files. I have started to notice a difference in sound quality though the past few months since I started carrying a handful of the official discs in my car.
That's the issue with the Ipod (or any drive like it). You sacrifice sound quality for convenience.
Old 08-15-05, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by digitalfreaknyc
That's the issue with the Ipod (or any drive like it). You sacrifice sound quality for convenience.
That is mostly nonsense. You would be hard, hard pressed to tell a 192kbps AAC file from the original CD in a double-blind trial.

Seriously, try it yourself. Download a good ABX testing program, load in a WAV and the AAC file and take the test. I can't tell most AAC160's (on my stereo system's speakers, not just crappy computer speakers), and I can't tell any AAC192's from the original.

Audio simply has a lot of extraneous information in it that nearly all people cannot hear. Simple fact.
Old 08-15-05, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Otto
That is mostly nonsense. You would be hard, hard pressed to tell a 192kbps AAC file from the original CD in a double-blind trial.
I'll see your "nonsense" and raise you a "your ears are different from mine."

I work in audio. I assure you I can tell the difference.

Anyone who thinks compression is good has never compared a DVD to the laserdisc soundtrack.
Old 08-15-05, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by digitalfreaknyc
I'll see your "nonsense" and raise you a "your ears are different from mine."

I work in audio. I assure you I can tell the difference.

Anyone who thinks compression is good has never compared a DVD to the laserdisc soundtrack.
Ahh, the old "golden ears" argument.

I'm sorry, but you are full of it. Show me the test results. Simply saying "Oh, I can tell" is totally worthless. Prove it. Put your money where your mouth is.

And if you really want to get well and truly flamed, try saying that sort of thing over at the hydrogenaudio forums, where posting what you just posted is a bannable offense.
Old 08-15-05, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Otto
Ahh, the old "golden ears" argument.

I'm sorry, but you are full of it. Show me the test results. Simply saying "Oh, I can tell" is totally worthless. Prove it. Put your money where your mouth is.

And if you really want to get well and truly flamed, try saying that sort of thing over at the hydrogenaudio forums, where posting what you just posted is a bannable offense.
Listen, how can what *I* hear be proveable? Any more than what YOU hear is proveable? It's just my opinion, pure and simple. Damn...
Old 08-15-05, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by digitalfreaknyc
Listen, how can what *I* hear be proveable? Any more than what YOU hear is proveable? It's just my opinion, pure and simple. Damn...
That's the problem. It's not a matter of opinion. I mean, either you can hear a difference or you can't, and a double blind test will let you prove (to some statistical level) that you can.

In an ABX test, you take your two samples, one compressed, one not compressed. The ABX program gives you three choices:
-Play Sample A
-Play Sample B
-Play Sample X
Sample X is the same as either Sample A or Sample B, chosen randomly. You listen and then try to determine which one it is. You do it several times in a row. If you can do it consistently, then you can hear a difference. If you can't hear a difference, then your results are no better than 50/50, over time.
Old 08-15-05, 04:02 PM
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Bottom line is that even if people can only tell the difference with certain examples, you CAN tell the difference. Some just may be more obvious than others.
I just never understood why people would want something lesser when they can have something better. That's the way people have it with DVD's and also the way they have it now with MP3's.

Last edited by digitalfreaknyc; 08-15-05 at 04:05 PM.
Old 08-15-05, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by digitalfreaknyc
Bottom line is that even if people can only tell the difference with certain examples, you CAN tell the difference. Some just may be more obvious than others.
No, every sample is different. For most classical music, I bump it up to AAC192 specifically because I can hear the differences at AAC160, for that particular kind of music. For most music, AAC160 is enough.

Originally Posted by digitalfreaknyc
I just never understood why people would want something lesser when they can have something better. That's the way people have it with DVD's and also the way they have it now with MP3's.
If you can't hear the difference, then who cares? I mean, if it sounds the same, then it sounds the same. At some point, the perfectionist in us all has to say "enough is enough". Yes, I could store lossless audio on my portable player. But having 5000 songs is a lot more handy than only having 500. And I certainly can't hear the difference, so what have I lost, really?

Yes, purchasing a lossy quality song means I don't get the lossless one. But it also means I can buy the one good song on the album for a tenth of the price of the whole album in a lossless format.

Convenience is not imaginary. But perceptible differences in lossy vs. lossless audio quality usually is.
Old 08-15-05, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Otto
If you can't hear the difference, then who cares? I mean, if it sounds the same, then it sounds the same. At some point, the perfectionist in us all has to say "enough is enough". Yes, I could store lossless audio on my portable player. But having 5000 songs is a lot more handy than only having 500. And I certainly can't hear the difference, so what have I lost, really?

Yes, purchasing a lossy quality song means I don't get the lossless one. But it also means I can buy the one good song on the album for a tenth of the price of the whole album in a lossless format.

Convenience is not imaginary. But perceptible differences in lossy vs. lossless audio quality usually is.
Again. Those are your preferences. And good for you for having them. They are not mine. If i had my way, i wouldn't be carrying around compressed audio and listening to compressed audio when I watch DVD's. it's a MASSIVE difference on DVD/Laserdisc. Less so with music...depending on many factors. But again, this is all MY preference. And i'm not trying to push MY preference on anyone else. Or tell them what is imaginary and what is not based on my preference, for that matter.
Old 08-15-05, 06:18 PM
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For people that can't hear the difference I have to ask what kind of headphones you are using. If they are stock headphones or even the $30-50 ones you may not hear a difference. However, with good headphones you can definitely hear the differences between the original audio CD and even 192kbs. I can't listen to 128kbps personally. It may or may not be enough to bother you depending on how well the track is encoded. 192 VBR sounds great to me, but with classical it depends. Cymbals are the one thing I can always seem to hear artifacts in with compressed sound, especially with classical music.

Again, everyone's ears are different and no soundwave comparison can accurately test what details each of us hears in a piece of music.

However, if you are using stock headphones I can guarantee you are not only not hearing the artifacts, but you are also missing out on part of the actual music you should be hearing.

Last edited by darkside; 08-15-05 at 06:21 PM.
Old 08-15-05, 08:42 PM
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I think that everyone at some point, if they think of themselves as taking their listening seriously, should make the effort to conduct some double blind listening tests.

Most people, I'd expect, would be greatly surprised because they don't normally think that their ears can trick them just like their eyes can trick them. Everyone has seen enough optical illusions to know that the way their mind expects to see something can distort the way they perceive an image.

Well, hearing can be the same way. A person's expectations about what they're hearing distorts their perception of the sound. That's been proven many times and is the reason why double blind testing is so important and plays a crucial role in listening tests conducted for any serious business.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that everyone who claims they can hear a difference is deluding themselves. All I'm saying is that these types of tests can be very illuminating to the individual as to what the limits of their hearing is.
Old 08-16-05, 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Otto
Songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store don't come at multiple bitrates. They're 128 kbps and that is that. You don't get a choice.

As for ripping your own from CD, you can choose what you like. I personally use 160kbps AAC for my ripping, and bump it up to 192kbps AAC for classical music (instrumental and such).
At the itunes store... edit>preferences> (importing) > (setting to more than 128 kbps)

Or is that for something other than buying a song? I actually haven't bought a song since I've changed the setting.
Old 08-16-05, 12:41 AM
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That is only the setting for when you import a cd yourself, not for the store.
Old 08-16-05, 08:31 AM
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wow. didn't intend to kick off a debate. I have been listening to 192 & cd's burned from those files since I converted my collection 2 years ago. Since I ran out of CDRs a month ago I started dragging along some actual cds. It depends on the disc and how recent the last time I listened to the CDR, but some don't sound as crisp/vibrant as the store bought. That is all.

FWIW, I love the iTunes store. It is great for picking up a song or two off a cd without blowing $13 on the full album.
Old 08-16-05, 09:30 AM
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It's a personal preference thing. I'm a tone deaf non-audiophile so 128 sounds fine to me so I rip everything at that in iTunes so I can get as many songs as possible on my players.

Below that rate I do sometimes notice the drop off, so I stick at 128.
Old 08-16-05, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Heat
At the itunes store... edit>preferences> (importing) > (setting to more than 128 kbps)
a) That's not "at the iTunes store". That's "in iTunes".
b) In iTunes-speak, "importing" = "ripping from a CD". Buying music from the store is called, oddly enough, "purchasing".
Old 08-16-05, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by darkside
Again, everyone's ears are different and no soundwave comparison can accurately test what details each of us hears in a piece of music.
Bunk. A double blind test (like an ABX testing) can accurately test what details you can hear in a piece of music. How? Simple: It can prove you hear more details in one piece of music than another copy of the same piece (using different compression or different effects or whatever). It can prove that you hear a difference in these two items. It can prove it to anybody, nobody needs to take your word for it.

Yes, everybody's ears are different, but to say that it's impossible to test differences in hearing is obviously nonsensical.

Seriously, just get an ABX testing program. They're free. You can do it yourself on your home computer. You'll very quickly prove what you can and can't hear, and you might even be surprised at the results.

Originally Posted by darkside
However, if you are using stock headphones I can guarantee you are not only not hearing the artifacts, but you are also missing out on part of the actual music you should be hearing.
I use my actual stereo system for testing, not headphones. I rarely, if ever, actually use headphones. But yeah, poor headphones do obscure much of the sound.

Last edited by Otto; 08-16-05 at 11:22 AM.
Old 08-16-05, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by digitalfreaknyc
But again, this is all MY preference. And i'm not trying to push MY preference on anyone else. Or tell them what is imaginary and what is not based on my preference, for that matter.
Hey, why all the hate? Look, you made a claim that you can hear the difference, and I'm simply asking you to prove it. If you can hear a difference in, say, AAC192 and a WAV file from a CD, then prove it. Show the test results. I think your claim is a bit farfetched, but maybe you're right. I'll grant the possibility. But I'll need to see the proof.

I mean, just saying you can hear a difference is great and all, but I say you're probably deluding yourself. If you're not willing to hear it, then fine, but if you're serious about audio and serious about learning about compression, then why not talk about it civilly and keep an open mind that maybe, just maybe, you're wrong on this one, eh?

You say you work in audio. This is your field. So, might it not be worth your time to learn something new about your field, something you might not have considered before? It's just an idea, but you might want to consider it, yeah?

Last edited by Otto; 08-16-05 at 11:24 AM.

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